What Paperwork Do I Need To Sell A Car?

There are so many reasons why people may want to sell their motor vehicles. According to 2022 surveys, the most common reason people are selling their cars in most states is a growing family, from having a baby to getting a new furry friend. Other people sell to get extra cash to finance the purchase of their dream car. Whatever the reason may be, familiarizing yourself with what paperwork is required when selling a car privately is a great way to make sure that the process of selling your pre-loved vehicle is as easy and as quick as possible. 

Perhaps the biggest benefit of selling your car to a private party rather than a car dealer is selling at a more profitable price. To do this, you will need to ensure that you meet state requirements and are aware of all the paperwork that is required when selling a car privately. There are also some other documents for selling a car that you may want to have, although they may not be required by your state. Here’s a simple insight into all the selling car paperwork that you may need. 

What Paperwork Do I Need To Sell My Car Privately? 

To sell your car, you’ll need a certificate of title, and you’ll want to have other essential documents at hand.

Some states also require an emissions test document. 

Certificate of Title 

At the top of the selling car paperwork list is a certificate of title. Your car title is legal proof of your ownership and will confirm such details as the car’s model, make, year, and vehicle identification number (VIN). You can request a duplicate title if your title has been lost, stolen, or damaged.

If you don’t owe any money on the car, you’ll have what is called a “clear vehicle title,” proving that the car is solely yours. However, if you do owe some money on the car, the lienholder or financial institution will be on the title and will remain on the title until you have paid off your debt in full. You may sell the car with a lien but will not be able to transfer the title to the buyer until you have paid your debt in full and received a lien release. When you’re ready to sell, you will complete the “assignment of title by registered owner” section on the back of the title. 

Bill of Sale 

Some states do not require a bill of sale as part of the paperwork when selling a car, but it may be a good idea to have one anyway as documentation of the sale. The bill of sale includes the following information.

The bill of sale is a credible record of the transaction and is proof that the buyer is accepting your used car as-is. You can use this bill of sale template as a great example. 

Service Records 

Another document, or set of documents, that is not required in most states but may be good to have when you’re selling a car is its service records. These records will show your potential buyer the vehicle history of the car. Service records include anything from a detailed description of car inspections to tire rotations. They show that your car has been well cared for and assure the new owner that you have been vigilant with the vehicle’s maintenance.

Owner’s Manual 

The best resource for giving information to your car’s new owner about the car and its features is the owner’s manual. Although you aren’t legally required to provide one to the buyer, he or she may want one. Therefore, it’s a valuable addition to your sale documents and will make the purchase an easier decision for the potential buyer. If you do not have the owner’s manual, most are available in free downloadable PDF files online.

Warranty Documents 

If you still have a warranty on your car that is transferable, more prospective buyers may be attracted to purchasing from you. Your transferable warranty can add value to your sale or support your asking price. If this applies to your vehicle, be sure to have those documents on hand. 

Emissions Test Documentation 

Some states may require a periodic vehicle emissions inspection as part of the necessary documents to sell a car, so you should make sure that yours is up to date before you attempt to sell your car. If this test is required in your state, most buyers would prefer to buy a car that is up to date with its emissions test documentation.


Selling your car privately is a good way to make some money, but it may take some effort. Also, it is full of unpredictable events. A great way to stay on top of the process is to ensure that you have all the paperwork you need before you sell. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What paperwork do I need if I have a lien on my car?

You may still be able to sell your car but will need to pay off the lien and obtain a lien release before you can transfer the title to the new owner. 

What do I need to sell my car?

A great first step once you have decided to sell is to get an in-person appraisal of your car before settling on an asking price. A detailed inspection of the vehicle can also be conducted.

What is a liability form?

You can obtain a release of liability form from the buyer (preferably after a test drive). Their signing will release you from any responsibilities or liabilities relating to the car that you have sold.

Article by Sofi Ostymchuk

Sofi Ostymchuk is a Content Lead and Legal Writer at Lawrina. Sofi manages the content on the blog, communicates with contributors, looks for interesting topics, and creates articles in cooperation with lawyers and law experts. If you would like to be a blogger for Lawrina, you can contact Sofi for all the details via email at s.ostymchuk@lawrina.com.

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